We just hit the longest day of the year and are tumbling downhill, hotter and hotter until New York in August. Have you looked down your street to see the wavy lines coming up from the pavement, making two blocks down seem like a mirage? Have you stood on the lower platform at West 4th Street? Have you seen Do The Right Thing? I know the South has legitimate, thick humidity and the desert of course actually gets hotter than it does here. I would wager however, that there is a type of heat and level of summer discomfort specifically unique to New York. This city is hot because it is full of concrete, metal, and people, and we decided to sleep on top of it all and on top of each other. My roommate from Alabama also tells me that his home state has had the decency of installing central air everywhere, which aside from office buildings, stores on 5th Ave, and our subway trains, is largely missing missing from New York. The frozen food section at Key Food doesn’t count.
We’re trying to sleep above 96th Street in seven foot wide bedrooms with no windows. We’re asleep in Bronx basements on the floor because physics said that heat rises. Across the City all of us are in bed lying like starfish with our arms and legs straight out, trying not to stick to anything. Leave the window open and maybe thank god if a breeze makes its way through the room. It is absolutely miserable living when the air is congested, hot, and the fan isn’t helping any more.
When I was little and growing up in Brooklyn, my brothers and I would sleep on the floor in our parents’ room because it was the only room in the house with an air conditioner. It hung off of the bedroom window and I can’t remember it ever being new. Appliances had a way of living in our house past their expiration date and I think my parents still have that very same air conditioner hanging off the second floor bedroom window today, clinging on for life, grinding along. The concept of having central air at home is completely strange to me. I will most likely continue to live in Brooklyn apartments without it, because I will not live in any of those luxury developments that went up when brownstones went down. It’s keeping up with modern inconveniences as a part of civic self- sacrifice, for the good of the row houses and brownstones, and feeling like I actually live in Brooklyn and not anywhere else in the world. Thus, therefore and so on, join on up to eschew central air with of a sense of propriety, civic masochism, and an in general want to keep the bulk of our paycheck away from Keyspan, as lovely as they are.
If you make it through the night, the early morning can be quiet, cool, and actually all right before the city heats up during the day. Daytime it is all of us running around in t-shirts, suits without coats, and bright summer dresses. We’ve got available stoops, better Italian ices than anywhere I know, sometimes clean beaches, and lord a’mighty, free summer music. We’ll push through. Be cool.